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135


Name:
Erin Brenner (erin_brenner@hotmail.com)
Date:Fri 06 Aug 2010 11:26:33 AM EDT
Subject:My Brain Injury
 

Dear Dr. Jill,
I just finished your book and I thought it was wonderful! It was so nice to hear you articulate some of the challenges you experienced. You helped me to better explain some of my experiences. For example, how your inner voice was silenced after your stroke. I remember that things felt different inside my head but I couldn't explain how.

My Story:

Three years ago, at the age of 27, I had a horseback riding accident. It resulted in a very severe brain injury to my right frontal lobe. I have no memory of my accident, the week before my accident, and several weeks after my accident, so I can only say what others have told me in regards to that time frame.

I was told by my coach that my horse was stung by a bee and somehow threw me off. As I fell, he hit me with his knee in the front of my head while he was galloping. My doctors told me that my helmet saved my life. I was knocked out cold and had 11 broken ribs, and a shock to my sciatic nerve. When the ambulance came I wasn't breathing properly and I later became combative.

Upon arrival to the hospital, I was put into a chemical coma in order to help stop the bleeding in my brain. Luckily the bleeding stopped on it's own. I was not a very nice patient as I kept trying to pull out my iv and my breathing tube! My family had to teach me how to eat again, once I was able to and they kept quizzing me about my life. I was unable to answer the questions correctly for some time. I kept forgetting why I was in the hospital. Once I was able to walk (with a rollator)the nurses would get mad at me because I would get up and go to the bathroom (when I has regained control of my bladder) independently. They wanted me to buzz them when I had to go because they didn't want me to fall and hit my head. Well, there was one problem there, I had no memory to remember to call or even how to call. I certainly do appreciate the nurses' concern:)

I remained in the hospital for about a month, then I went to rehab. I found going to rehab was wonderful because I got to meet other people who had had brain injuries too and learn how they were effected and "compare notes". I spent the day doing speech therapy, physio and occupational therapy which I benefitted from tremendously. I also got to participate in a study that was being conducted by one of the doctors at my hospital which helped me tremendously in terms of letting me know which skills I was recovering and what I needed to work on.

When I got to go home, I continued my therapy as an outpatient in my home town. I also made it my duty to work on my rehabilitation whenever I was awake (I still spent a lot of time sleeping, since my brain was so taxed). I thought of my rehab as my new "job". I read everyday. I got a Nintendo Wii for Christmas and I played Big Brain Academy everyday for as long as I could. I swear that game got me my licence back! I also played Mariokart to help me with my hand-eye coordination.

As soon as I was able to walk without my cane, I started walking my dog everyday. We started out doing small distances and built up from there.

One year after my accident, I returned to teaching half days as my test results indicated that I was ready and I ran a 10km run. The following year, I returned to teaching full time and I taught a grade 1/2 class and I continued working out by doing aerobics classes on a regular basis. The aerobics classes help me in manys ways (focus, concentration, co-ordination, reaction time, short term memory etc.). This summer I got married to my wonderful long term boyfriend, who has been through more than any person should ever have to go through. I will continue teaching this year.

I highly recommend to anyone with a brain injury to do whatever form of physical activity that you are able to do in addition to working out your brain (with Sudoku for example). I also recommend meditation as I found this to be very calming and rejuvenating to my brain when it was tired. Finally I found it to be very imporatant to stay connected socially to my family and my friends even when I was tired and didn't feel like being social, it was helped tremendously. I also never felt sorry for myself (would that be due to my right brain injury?) and I just followed my rehab plan (is that my left brain taking over?)and remained thankful for what I did have. I did everything my doctors and therapists told me to do. I am so incredibly thankful for my healing and my life. I can certainly relate to your comments Dr. Jill, as I also thank the universe everyday for my brain, my body and my loving family memebers and friends. You can always be worse off than you are, so be thankful. Best of luck to everyone in recovery! You can do it!!!!

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134


Name:
Randy (rmcarthur@Scotlandcounty.org)
Date:Tue 20 Jul 2010 02:54:34 PM EDT
Subject:stroke survivor
 

I am a paramedic who suffered a stroke while taking a patient to the hospital,the doctor checked me in the hospital via a CT scan ,but my stroke only showed on a MRItwo weeks later that my Dr.ordered. I stayed in the hospital for three days, MY blood sugar went to 505 and must have caused it but because I did not notice i was having problems until i got ready to come home from the hospital.My balance was off and I did not know it in the hospital because I was not walking anywhere. I have not used FAcebook or to my closest friends or contacted my co workers they tell me at speech rehab it could be what is called "socally paralze" just in case anyone else may have the same type thing happening to them. I THINK I Msybe am improving some. Just thought i would share.

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133


Name:
okdmjhs (obwsrs@yplvzl.com)
Date:Mon 19 Jul 2010 08:00:02 AM EDT
Subject:tiWclibWFIPL
 

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132


Name:
Andreas (andreas.fgi@hotmail.com)
Date:Wed 14 Jul 2010 11:39:18 AM EDT
Subject:My story
 

Today I'm 21 yrs old living in Sweden. My story goes back to preschool when I was 6 years old. I was playing and noticed that my balance slowdy dissapered. I had a stroke on my left side of the brain and my entire right side got paralyzed and I passed out.
I recovered from this physically with disability in my right arm as the only sustained effect.
I would say that the greatest effect the stroke had on me isn't my physical disability but the psycological impact. I wasn't the same child anymore. I became more unobtrusive and ashamed that I was different. I've build up a "wall" since then - not letting anyone in, not showing the world my disability. Hiding a big part of who I am.

I have never given myself a chanse to really process my experience. And so I thought that one step in the right direction would be to share my story with people that have the same experience.

I'm working on improving myself, I'm working on what I want to achieve in life and appreciate all the beauty in the "here-and-now".

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131


Name:
Brad Carr (carfish@bendbroadband.com)
Date:Sat 05 Jun 2010 11:35:55 PM EDT
Subject:My heart attack and subsequent stroke
 

Hello, my name is Brad Carr and I'm 40 years old. My stroke was over 5 years ago now, when I was only 35. It was considered a mild stroke as far as strokes go, but I really just cannot bring myself to use the word "mild" to describe the changes I went through and still live with now. I find myself bursting into tears right now just writing about it. I feel like it really has changed me in so many ways and most people don't seem to notice or really even consider it on the outside.

First of all though, before I can go into the story of what happened with my stroke, I have to tell you about my preexisting heart condition. I have a severely damaged heart muscle due to a heart attack when I was only 24. A myocardial infarction of the left anterior descending artery required emergency angioplasty right away. My artery was completely blocked for several hours you see, since no one suspected such a young person was having a serious heart attack. My Blood Pressure and heart rate were completely normal. This leads me to suspect, and my doctor confirmed this, that I had lived with this narrowing in my artery and had been compensating for it for some time. My cardiologist at the time said there was a lot of collateral circulation growing towards that area of my heart and I was lucky that I was still young and physically active. That's likely the only reason I survived it and most likely would not have had I suffered such a cardiac event at the age of 40, which I have now reached in the best health of my life.

Fast forward 11 years to age 35, I was doing everything I possibly could wrong for someone with a serious heart condition. My heart had somewhere around 30% ejection fraction after my heart attack. I found out the hard way that my years of alcoholism and not eating healthy had taken it's toll. My ejection fraction had been reduced to almost 20%, which makes me a candidate for an internal defibrillator apparently. I found all of this out after collapsing one night at home. I had felt funny in my head and was confused and my hand was getting increasingly numb. I didn't even realize my leg was numb until I tried to get up from the table, went to take a step and proceeded to collapse and fall on my curl bar, bruising my rib. I don't think I realized or even felt my rib for several days however. It wasn't until I got out of the hospital days later, after having seen neurologists, psychologists, speech therapist, physical therapists, etc. etc. Although it wasn't as painful as a heart attack, it was the most traumatic experience of my life and I felt how it changed me on the right side of my body right away and still do. I am still numb in my right hand and foot, get fatigued and sore on my right side quite easily, I have a lot of short term memory problems, and I make simple math mistakes.

Despite all my health concerns I've still managed to live a healthy and active lifestyle. I love to ski and snowboard and got back into mountain biking again after making some lifestyle changes after my stroke and losing over 50 pounds. I also lift weights and feel stronger than I have in my whole life, since I was a teenager. Although I still struggle in life, especially financially with all the medical bills, and people don't understand what I've been through and don't see me as handicapped, I still feel more vital and alive than I ever did before as an alcoholic who was severely depressed. Although it changed me in permanent ways, I can look at what happened to me as positive for the changes it forced me to make in my life, and I see things differently than I did before I think.

I do wish I could get the feeling back in my right arm and leg, and get rid of the strange sensations, weird vibes and pain I feel all of the time now. Other than that, I don't mind my more humbling view of the world, I think it suits me just fine.

Brad Carr





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130


Name:
Rebecca Taylor (@rtaylor_4@hotmail.com)
Date:Mon 31 May 2010 08:48:25 PM EDT
Subject:Husband has Alexia without agraphia from a stroke
 

Dr. Taylor,
I want to share my husbands story in hopes to discover resources that might help with his recovery. He suffered two strokes during open heart surgery at the age of 56. One stroke occured in the left side of the brain and effected his ability to read. We are both educators and have worked for 16 months to reteach him to read. We started with the A B C's and have worked our way up. He is reading now but wants to improve his speed. Are there any techniques that you have discovered to improve reading speed? He is an increadible man and has devoted his whole life to educating others and I want to do everything I can to help him fully recover. Thank you for your book, it has helped us and he hopes to finish reading it very soon.

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129


Name:
Laura Dabrowski (laura_dabrowski@hotmail.com)
Date:Mon 10 May 2010 11:12:54 AM EDT
Subject:I need help
 

My husband had a stroke on Valentine's Day. It was only moments after he suffered the stroke that I realized something was wrong and I him to the hospital. I was waiting in the car for him because we were taking the grandkids for hotdogs and when he did not come out I went in to find him looking through the dresser drawers and not answering me when I questioned what he was looking for. While in the emergency room he started to move his right leg and right arm so they felt he did not need drugs. He is now home after 2 months of therapy; he has in-home therapy now and will shortly go for out-patient therapy.

My issue is he cannot speak legiblely, but does not seem to understand that no one can understand him. He understand all that you say to him, but does not seem to get it that we cannot understand him. I have contacted Robert Wood Johnson Hospital twice for a stoke support group, but have not heard back from them. My husband is not getting irate with me at times, yelling verbal tones that mean nothing, and my frustration level is reaching a point where I feel I want to scream. I have read Dr. Jill's book and I am grateful that I came upon it, but I need help, someone to communicate with that can give me guidance in his care. I do have an appointment on the 17th with a doctor at the Prespertarian Hospital in New York, for a second opinion.

My husband is doing well with his walking, and he seems to remember a lot of things we have done and remembers his kids, grandkids, etc. He cannot swallow thin liquid, but when he goes for out-patient he will receive treatments on his throat for involuntary muscle excercise which I pray strengthens his throat muscles so that he can eat and drink what he wants. He has some weakness on his right side but I am confident that physical and occupational therapy will help him regain a lot in that area. It is the speech, this is where I have the most concern. Anyone with advise or insight on this, please email me. Thanks very much.

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128


Name:
zfjuux (angszz@udfmbq.com)
Date:Fri 23 Apr 2010 12:07:28 AM EDT
Subject:cvlnadaNmCcVwhIKmjn
 

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127


Name:
Amy Louhela (amylouhela@yahoo.com)
Date:Wed 21 Apr 2010 11:59:26 PM EDT
Subject:My Stroke Story!!
 

When I was 25 I bungee jumped and tore my left vertrebal artery. When I jumped I got scared and gripped the braces that went around my thighs. My neck snapped- I knew I had whiplash but at the time was unaware of internal injuries.
After I jumped I started to have weird symptoms. I would wake up with the room spinning and I was getting confused a lot. One time I was so lost I couldn't find my way home. Another time I forgot my name. My right side of my face was going numb and at one emergency room visit I had lost vision in my right eye. Tthe doctors insisted that I was having migraines or panic attacks-
The Doctor thoutght that I was having delayed grieving from Losing my still born daughter to annencephaly on 04/09/1998( Olivia Lynn)
The week before DEc 20th of 2000, I had went to the hospital with right facial numbness- The emergency room doctor said " I've been an emergency room Doctor for seventeen years and I know a panic attack when I see one" Then on Dec. 20th of 2000, I was at Cub foods turned to look at fish and down I went. I had both boys with me. I was brought to the hospital were they discovered a left vertrebal artery dissection. I had hundreds of tiny blood clots in my brain from where the blood tried to get through the artery. I had a mild stroke. The Dr's could not believe that I was still alive with so many clots in my brain. They said It was a miracle.
They started me on a heprin IV and coumadin. Coumadin flushes the vitamin K out of the system and so my first night in the hospital was life or death. The next few years I spent in and out of the hospital- went into debt from medical bills and my children - especially my daughter suffered alot- It is hard having a sick mommy in the house. I started gaing weight from being on coumadin- The coumadin made me lethargic- It made my hair fall out and I had sores in my mouth. I also had what I called coumadin pains- I had terrible pains in my legs. I had freQuent TIA's and was constantly in the hospital. My right eye droops a bit when tired and sometimes I use the wrong words. My right eye also doesnt' focus correctly. I lost mathmatical comprehension.
Facing death has changed soo many things about me- I realized how important my family is and I'd do anything for them. The only problem is I still have a lot of fear- my artery is healed but narrowed- I still have activity restrictions- Every headache I get I panic a bit- If my head doesnt' feel right I panic a bit. I know I'm o.k. but I have this nagging doubt.
I'm not supposed to jar my neck and my artery has re torn one other time from working out- My mayo clinic Doctor said I now may have a pre-dispositon for it to tear. O.K. Forgive me for griping- I just thought I'd warn others Please be careful and maybe rethink bungee jumping.
The amazing thing is my brain has had a miraculous recovery!!! I'm currently working on my Master's degree. It's been a bit of a struggle for me because of the technicalities but I'm trudging along!!!

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126


Name:
Lori (lorisalsgiver@live.com)
Date:Sat 03 Apr 2010 07:25:09 AM EDT
Subject:Stroke
 

I recently had a TIA while 7 months pregnant with my second child. While I still have some residual effects from the stroke, I feel lucky to be alive and well. My doctors recently discovered what caused my stroke. They discovered I have a hole in my heart that I've had since birth. They are talking about performing heart surgery in the next couple of monthes. I recently started a group online for other moms who have had a stroke before or after having children. I want to see how having a stroke has impacted their family lives if any.

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125


Name:
laura meade (@lameade1@hotmail.com)
Date:Sat 27 Mar 2010 12:28:03 AM EDT
Subject:avm
 

i DID NOT have a stroke. having a stroke implies i had blockage.i had a birth defect, not a blockage.saying it was a stroke is incorrect

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124


Name:
laura meade (@bambi69711983@yahoo.com)
Date:Fri 26 Mar 2010 10:02:18 PM EDT
Subject:birth defects
 

in june 2005 i had an avm rupture.i am considered a miracle.i take no meds.doctors told my child i would die.i've had six brain surgeries.i was in the hospital five months.i am learning balance again.i have a brain shunt.less than 2 percent of the population have this.it sucks but i make the best of it.

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123


Name:
Ernest Severino (wes1@worldpath.net)
Date:Fri 12 Mar 2010 09:24:06 AM EST
Subject:aneurysm and stroke
 

On 1/26/06 I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm on the left side of my brain. I was med flighted to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical center in NH. They performed clipping on my aneurysm which saved my life but it gave me a stroke. I did recover speech and can walk a bit with cane. my right arm is just about useless. I cannot drive but really wish to get back to working. I have looked into getting rehab equipment like the Bioness products for the hand and foot drop . The cost of these products is not covered by ins or Medicare. I hear good and bad things about these type of things. One was from a stroke specialist at DHMC who said if the signal cant get from the brain to the arm it cant go from the arm to the brain. I was wondering if you had any ideas of how i can try to get the movements back into my arm and leg to get back to normal
thank you Ernie

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122


Name:
Judy Saltzman (@jsaveker@att.net)
Date:Sat 06 Mar 2010 07:16:34 PM EST
Subject:Brain Hemhorrage
 

Sunday afternoon about 1:30, I mwas in the process of completing a philosophical essay to be published in a book. I was 80% through with my work, when I felt someone had hit me in the back of the head with a mallet. Then a strange headache ensued. I also felt a driping sensation in the back of my head. I did not know my brain was bleeding. I had a subarahcnoid brain hemohorage and subdural hemotoma.For a while I could not breath, and thought I ws having a heart attack. I called a friend for help. Just as he picked up the phone, all I could say before passing out was "Frank you have got to help me!" He came rushing over, and thank goodness he had the key to my house. The paramedics came and I was rushed to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, and then airlifted to UCLA where Dr. Fernando Vinuela and his team of neuroradiologists put 40 titanium coils in my brain. I worked up five days later. I had been conviced I would die, but when I woke up, I knew I would be completely fine. I just felt as if a mule had kicked me in the ass.After a bout with meningitus due to the drainage tube in my brain, I was walking around in less than three weeks. I am among the %15 who survive such an episode unimpaired. I have since published papers, including the essay I was writing when the incident occurred. I also got my second degree black belt in kenpo karate. I am very grateful to modern medicine and to all my friends for their help. After this illness, I retired from my position s philosopohy profressor, but continue writing and publishng.

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121


Name:
Tim martin (Tmartin0687@aim.com)
Date:Mon 22 Feb 2010 07:59:09 AM EST
Subject:Brain Tumor
 

My story starts on Dec 11, 2009. I went to bed like normal only to wake up in the emergency room. I have no memory of my seizure but from what my family describes. I was convulsing and my breathing had dropped to four breaths a minute, I was turning blue and they thought I was dying. When I got to the ER, my memory was still choppy, only remembering few details but I do remember questioning what happened to me. After being told I had scans and tests done on my brain, a few hours later my entire perspective on life changed. I am only 22 and starting my life in the Navy when I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. I am still in shock today trying to search for reasons why I could have this, I am not a smoker or alcoholic and I have never been to the doctor for even the smallest illness. I went through an awake tumor resect on January 12 last month and can relate to Jill when she said she couldn't get enough ice on her head, I was completely swollen for days. I have some vision loss in my left eye, since the tumor was on the upper right hemishpere. I am curretly going through radiation and at my age, I beleive I can become a survivor, and also because as Jill describes it, I'm still amazed and the human brain and it's will to survive as well as adapt to severe conditions. Seems strange but I am proud of my brain and how well it is healing.

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120


Name:
rhonda (rhonda@rhondascatering.net)
Date:Mon 15 Feb 2010 11:33:14 AM EST
Subject:Hemmorragic Bleed
 

In 2002, at the age of 42, I was on my way to the Dominican Republic when I experienced a horrific shudder on the right side of my body. I was limp and paralyzed. Fortunently, I had a radiologist in my garage apartment who responded immediately. I fussed at the medics for carrying me downstairs in a bed sheet and not with a gurney. I lost consciousness and starting convulsing when we reached the ambulance. Stopping at our local howpital, he told the medics to gas up, they were going to the city, 1 1/2 hours away. I spent two weeks fighting for my life and fighting with my caregivers. I had suffered a hemmorrhagic bleed in my left brain. I became aware of my surroundings two weeks later at a rehab hospial where the neurological exam stated, "patient has significantly decreased memmory and could not state the day, year, month, etc, even when being prompted that yesterday was July 4th". I had to learn that I lived where-? Oklahoma?(I was from Texas originally) and that I was divorced and had three children? (ages 12, 14 %26 16). Mentally, I was not like the "other" patients. I just could not move, swallow, think or talk. I did not want or need help I just wanted to go home. Fortunently, the occupational, physical and music therapy taught my brain to reroute itself and learn to use my "affected" limbs. I returned home after two months, continuing physical and video therepy. I was able to go back to my catering business because of therapy.
Two years ago I read "My Stoke of Insight" and cried exhaustedly through much of the book.
On February 6, 2010, I told my story to a group of #800 women I have catered to, for fourteen years. It rekindled so many memories and I reread "My stroke of Insight". I picked up that you went off dilantin (I am on 330mg. daily) after two years. I would love to not take it, but am afaid of the consequences. Then I went online to the books website. Okay, I knew you were popular but it was incredible the amount of information that was provided-you really are famous! When I went to your lecture series schedule, you will be in Dallas (1 1/2 hr. South). I have contacted SMU to try and get tickets, but they are sold out.

I still have midline parenthesis and suffer from a dropped foot, but I can move mountains again. Thank you for your inspiration and letting the "survivors" of brain injuries understand what a beautiful organ it is. -Loved you brain/spinal cord picture!
Rhonda Adams

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119


Name:
rhonda (rhonda@rhondascatering.net)
Date:Mon 15 Feb 2010 11:33:12 AM EST
Subject:Hemmorragic Bleed
 

In 2002, at the age of 42, I was on my way to the Dominican Republic when I experienced a horrific shudder on the right side of my body. I was limp and paralyzed. Fortunently, I had a radiologist in my garage apartment who responded immediately. I fussed at the medics for carrying me downstairs in a bed sheet and not with a gurney. I lost consciousness and starting convulsing when we reached the ambulance. Stopping at our local howpital, he told the medics to gas up, they were going to the city, 1 1/2 hours away. I spent two weeks fighting for my life and fighting with my caregivers. I had suffered a hemmorrhagic bleed in my left brain. I became aware of my surroundings two weeks later at a rehab hospial where the neurological exam stated, "patient has significantly decreased memmory and could not state the day, year, month, etc, even when being prompted that yesterday was July 4th". I had to learn that I lived where-? Oklahoma?(I was from Texas originally) and that I was divorced and had three children? (ages 12, 14 %26 16). Mentally, I was not like the "other" patients. I just could not move, swallow, think or talk. I did not want or need help I just wanted to go home. Fortunently, the occupational, physical and music therapy taught my brain to reroute itself and learn to use my "affected" limbs. I returned home after two months, continuing physical and video therepy. I was able to go back to my catering business because of therapy.
Two years ago I read "My Stoke of Insight" and cried exhaustedly through much of the book.
On February 6, 2010, I told my story to a group of #800 women I have catered to, for fourteen years. It rekindled so many memories and I reread "My stroke of Insight". I picked up that you went off dilantin (I am on 330mg. daily) after two years. I would love to not take it, but am afaid of the consequences. Then I went online to the books website. Okay, I knew you were popular but it was incredible the amount of information that was provided-you really are famous! When I went to your lecture series schedule, you will be in Dallas (1 1/2 hr. South). I have contacted SMU to try and get tickets, but they are sold out.

I still have midline parenthesis and suffer from a dropped foot, but I can move mountains again. Thank you for your inspiration and letting the "survivors" of brain injuries understand what a beautiful organ it is. -Loved you brain/spinal cord picture!
Rhonda Adams

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118


Name:
Gregg (webergregg@hotmail.com)
Date:Mon 18 Jan 2010 10:36:00 AM EST
Subject:triumph
 

Thanks for writing the book. I am not quite done with it, but today is the fourteenth anniversary of the surgery that removed an AVM from the right occipital lobe of my brain. I hemorrhaged at age eight and again the week of my twenty-fifth birthday. The surgery was just a couple months later. I have regained a good quality of life. I lost half my vision and live with constant pain though. Does anyone have experience with visual restoration therapy? I have received information but am skeptical based on my phtsician's reaction. The first couple years were really tough. I did not think I could ever function. I have learned to deal with the pain, but I long to regain the vision. Jill's perspective in the book has reignited my interest in VRT. I would love to know what others have to say. Thanks.

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117


Name:
myrna santos (masantosmyrna@yahoo.com)
Date:Mon 04 Jan 2010 06:18:10 AM EST
Subject:stroke survivor
 

Feb 14, 2006 was a calm Tuesday morning making breakfast and talking to my younger son and my husband then it hit me a tingling feeling coming up my left arm and quickly coming toward my face asked my son to call 911 cause I was having a stroke...I kept yelling "ask them what do I do?" can't remember anything after that.. I had a bleeding stroke on my right side of the brain. I was in ICU for a month and had 5 months of rehab. I'm still having a hard time with my balance I'm walking with a cane. My left arm has movement but can't hold anything I have lots and lots of pain especially at night I become very frustrated because I want to be able to walk without a cane and go on with my life
After reading Dr. Jill's book and hearing her on Oprah I know I will get better The brain is a marvelous creation.

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116


Name:
Kathy Gaita (kgaita@gmail.com)
Date:Sat 02 Jan 2010 08:53:00 PM EST
Subject:stroke triumphant
 

The gift of my stroke experience was an introduction to my heart. One of two brain aneurysms ruptured during the surgical procedure called embolization. I awoke with memory loss, some aphasia, the desire for silence, and loss of most of the sense of smell. The latter upset me tremendously as I had always enjoyed a terrific memory and amazing olfactory sense; those were the gifts I identified with. I used to joke that I lived life as a puppy exploring life through my nose. I loved the smell of my children and friends, nature, food, perfumes, actually, almost everything. I returned to my apartment shocked to not smell anything. I couldn’t taste food.
For the time of my recuperation, I desired no stimulation through print. My enormous bookcase of treasured materials was filled with book titles on the brain. As my sister visiting from out-of-state walked into my living room, she glanced at the bookbindings and exclaimed what a coincidence that anyone with such a passionate love of the brain should come home brain injured. I had recently completed my Master’s degree in counseling concurrently with 26 credits post-Master’s with the intention of applying them towards a Ph.D. I wanted to teach counselors and teachers how to empower youth and families to address school difficulties and family interactions through a more comprehensive awareness of brain strategies.
I sat through the seasons admiring the sounds of nature, the geese, ducks and birds, flowers blooming, and the movement of clouds across the sky. I laughed with delight at the beauty of my geraniums, and cried with the squawking mother ducks chased by the persistent drakes. I was so in love with the geese as they flew overhead, their fat bodies dangling bright orange webbed feet. They were incredibly beautiful, as were the sky and flowers. I realized that they were part of life; not trying to be anything, yet, they were exquisitely beautiful. All my life I had wanted to be accepted, loved unconditionally. As a child, I had been praised because I was a smart, mature little girl. In that precious moment, I realized that brain-injured, not smart, often confused and overwhelmed, I was precious, too.
My experiences that followed were of accepting each person in front of me with a precious awareness. Had my heart opened? Although I lost so much, what I have gained from the stroke is something that makes life worth living. I refer to it as ‘the sweetness.’ Is this the bliss of the right-brain experience? I no longer have the need to categorize and know why. It just is, and to me, that is the gift of acceptance.
During the years following, I came to learn of the tragedies against the children in Africa. I wanted to learn more, how I could help them. Research is still my passion; I just can’t remember the details. I was thrilled to read that your brain came online after 8 years and you could again remember massive amounts of data and details. I use children’s large sheets of colored poster-board to take notes and make story- boards to formulate an idea. Otherwise, I don’t remember what is on the sheets of legal pad, or where and what I have filed the notes under. I believe I am thriving when I have stepped out of my own loss to ‘do what I can do with what I’ve got.’ My efforts to protect the children and their families include:
1. I had discovered that a country was providing documented, ineffective malaria drugs to pregnant mothers and children under five years of age. I couldn’t write a journal article for submission, citing the data was too overwhelming. A local paper published my article: http://de.theoaklandpress.com/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0xQLzIwMDgvMDMvMzAjQXIwNTAwMw==%26Mode=HTML%26Locale=english-skin-custom:
2. www.firstgiving.com/kathygaita This is my attempt to purchase prosthetic devices for those children whose limbs had been lost through attack with machetes in this same country.
3. I spent the following year advocating to the media to get the issue utilized as a story idea or perhaps, a question for the presidential debates.
4. Last year, Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times, published my submission on his blog: *http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/…/drumrollnow-the-half-the-sky-contest/?...
5. Curiously, NPR refused to publish this submission, although their radio show specifically addressed the issue I was advocating. Their webpage invited comments; mine were excluded by the moderator.
6. The Wall Street Journal also excluded my submission although comments were being printed regarding an article they published on malaria and DDT.
I believe this humanitarian issue would stand the test with the American people. Our values of life and liberty are meaningful today, and people deserve the conversation to address it. I am thankful for the gift that my stroke made possible. Living life with this “feeling” awareness of the preciousness of life, rather than the cerebral awareness of life’s value is profound. What a gift to receive at any age!

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